A counterargument involves acknowledging standpoints that go against your argument and then re-affirming your argument. This is typically done by stating the opposing side’s argument, and then ultimately presenting your argument as the most logical solution. The counterargument is a standard academic move that is used in argumentative essays because it shows the reader that you are capable of understanding and respecting multiple sides of an argument.
Counterargument in two steps
Respectfully acknowledge evidence or standpoints that differ from your argument.
Refute the stance of opposing arguments, typically utilizing words like “although” or “however.”
In the refutation, you want to show the reader why your position is more correct than the opposing idea.
Where to put a counterargument
Can be placed within the introductory paragraph to create a contrast for the thesis statement.
May consist of a whole paragraph that acknowledges the opposing view and then refutes it.
- Can be one sentence acknowledgements of other opinions followed by a refutation.
Why use a counterargument?
Some students worry that using a counterargument will take away from their overall argument, but a counterargument may make an essay more persuasive because it shows that the writer has considered multiple sides of the issue. Barnet and Bedau (2005) propose that critical thinking is enhanced through imagining both sides of an argument. Ultimately, an argument is strengthened through a counterargument.
Examples of the counterargument structure
- Argument against smoking on campus: Admittedly, many students would like to smoke on campus. Some people may rightly argue that if smoking on campus is not illegal, then it should be permitted; however, second-hand smoke may cause harm to those who have health issues like asthma, possibly putting them at risk.
- Argument against animal testing: Some people argue that using animals as test subjects for health products is justifiable. To be fair, animal testing has been used in the past to aid the development of several vaccines, such as small pox and rabies. However, animal testing for beauty products causes unneeded pain to animals. There are alternatives to animal testing. Instead of using animals, it is possible to use human volunteers. Additionally, Carl Westmoreland (2006) suggests that alternative methods to animal research are being developed; for example, researchers are able to use skin constructed from cells to test cosmetics. If alternatives to animal testing exist, then the practice causes unnecessary animal suffering and should not be used.
Harvey, G. (1999). Counterargument. Retrieved from writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/counter- argument
Westmoreland, C. (2006; 2007). “Alternative Tests and the 7th Amendment to the Cosmetics Directive.” Hester, R. E., & Harrison, R. M. (Ed.) Alternatives to animal testing (1st Ed.). Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.
Barnet, S., Bedau, H. (Eds.). (2006). Critical thinking, reading, and writing. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Contributor: Nathan Lachner